"One more thing," the most anticipated words in a keynote speech given by Apple CEO Steve Jobs. The final major announcement of a Jobs keynote, one more thing is usually Apple's biggest and most secret product or project, previously having introduced items such as the MacBook Pro, various iPods, and AirPort 802.11 products. So whenever Jobs says those three words, the technology community tends to be all ears.

Not one to break tradition, at this year's Apple Worldwide Developer's Conference(WWDC), Jobs closed as always with one more thing, and as usual the audience got the unexpected. This year's conference and one more thing will likely be at the top of any top 10 lists for some time to come however, for the one more thing wasn't a new Apple product at all, it was Safari for Windows.

Safari, Apple's custom web browser for Mac OS X, has since its inception played a fairly minor role on the world wide web due to being limited to modern Macintosh computers, and hence a role and market share limited to the size of the Mac OS X install base. This has been scheduled to change for some time now as with the impending release of Apple's iPhone smartphone, Safari will be the shipping browser there too, with all indications of the iPhone quickly selling out. However nowhere in these public plans was a version of Safari for Windows, which may very quickly eclipse the market share effects of the aforementioned iPhone.

Given this unexpected release, it has taken very little time for Apple to drum up a lot of interest in Safari - having already passed 1 million downloads - nor has it taken long for a multitude of theories of sprout on and off of the WWDC show floor. It's not every day that someone releases a new web browser after all.

We have covered Safari in the past with our Mac OS X 10.4 review and A Month With A Mac series, with very little changing between Safari 2.0 and 3.0 other than Windows support. So rather than rehash those articles for anyone unfamiliar with Safari, we recommend reading those reviews first before continuing.


Since the release of Safari 2.0 when Apple managed to take care of many of the performance issues with Safari, Apple has been trying to build a reputation for Safari as a faster browser, something they have only been marginally successful at so far. Having finally corrected a number of their performance issues in Safari, this is the key point Apple is trying to push with Safari 3, and we're eager to put it to the test. However it takes more than speed to crack the browser market, including memory usage and a slew of generally subjective issues within a browser such as flow. Although Apple is neither a newcomer to the web browser market or the Windows market, both markets can be surprisingly fickle and treacherous at times.

Does Safari have what it takes to challenge the dynamic duo of Firefox and Internet Explorer on Windows, or does Apple need to go back to the drawing board? Let's find out.


The Test
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  • crimson117 - Thursday, July 12, 2007 - link

    <quote>For all of the positive aspects we've mentioned above, what good are they if we go mad trying to use the application?</quote>
    As a long-time windows user (haven't had an Apple computer since the IIe), I was put-off enough by the font smoothing and other oddities in Safari to uninstall it right away and stick with Firefox.

    But I can see Apple's intentions here... if they're trying to get people to switch to Macintosh for their next computer, perhaps those people will prefer the look and thus be happy to get a Mac - not surprised when Safari renders significantly differently on Windows vs Mac.
    Reply
  • zshift - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    I'm having a little trouble with the values you guys are getting on how much each app is using for ram. Under windows xp pro, safari on average uses about twice as much ram as firefox when multiple windows were open. In cases where firefox was using about 45MB of ram, I noticed that safari was edging onto 100MB. You guys should redo that test, and do it while having several tabs open. Also, it was never mentioned how much flash/java/etc. the test site used, so theres no way of knowing how effecient the browsers really are in real life settings. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    The test was each of our test pages(AT, ./, CNN, and the WH) open in separate tabs; this gives a good mix of flash-rich pages(AT and CNN) and simpler text-rich pages(./, WH). Reply
  • jay401 - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    Between Extensions and its more correct CSS rendering compared to IE, FireFox still brings the best browser experience to Windows. Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    I'll stick with Opera as it is not only more standards-compliant than Firefox or IE (it passes the ACID2 test perfectly), but also much less prone to security breaches thanks in part to using proprietary code (rather than IE and Mozilla-related projects which re-use many modules), and also because Opera has such a small userbase (~2.5% I believe) that it just isn't worth the effort of writing totally new code to attack its users.

    Opera is fast, functional and safe. I do have Firefox as well as IE7 installed as well, but I prefer Opera for day-to-day browsing.
    Reply
  • LTG - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    It seems the most basic Java applet does not work:
    http://demo.aurigma.com/ImageUploader40/BasicDemo/...">http://demo.aurigma.com/ImageUploader40/BasicDemo/...

    I'm running Vista and Safari 3.0.2.

    Does this work for anyone else?
    Reply
  • BikeDude - Sunday, July 8, 2007 - link

    FWIW: I have problems with IE and Java under Vista as well... The JRE isn't too happy when DEP mode is enabled. :( (I have no clue if it will help to disable DEP for Safari, but give it a spin if you have the time)

    Oh, I forgot to add: Java sucks. (I have to admit reinstalling JRE many, many times before I discovered the DEP issue -- I just couldn't imagine a modern piece of software not supporting DEP, the API has been there since before 1993 for Pete's sake!)

    --
    Rune
    Reply
  • Griswold - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    This is problematic for Apple. Although we have other theories on Safari that we'll get to in a moment, we're not ready to be so bold as to proclaim that Apple doesn't intend for this browser to be used on Windows by the masses - if that was the case they wouldn't have made it WWDC's "one more thing" or have giving it such prominent billing on their website.

    That WWDC was rather dull and boring, they needed some flashy announcement and had this in the drawer - call it plan B for rainy days. It created alot of hoopla but in the end, its nothing to call home about. On the useful side are the points you mentioned.
    Reply
  • Donkeyshins - Saturday, July 7, 2007 - link

    ...the nine zero-day exploits against Safari. Not an auspicious beginning. Reply
  • Justin Case - Friday, July 6, 2007 - link

    Why is using 44 MB "better" than using 50 or 200?

    What exactly is the advantage of having several GB of RAM not being used by any application? A well designed program will use RAM as cache (for pages, interface elements, bookmarks, history, etc.), to speed up its operation.

    One thing is checking how much RAM needs to be available for a program to run (or how well it runs when very little RAM is available), but simply checking how much RAM a program is using (when there's still a lot of free memory) tells you nothing about its efficiency.

    I'd much rather use a program that's smart enough to load things I might want to use in the background (if enough RAM is available) than one that loads things only when I specifically ask for them, making it slower in exchange for not using RAM that's just sitting there.

    Also, site "loading" times depend a lot more on the network conditions than on the browser, and the same browser will "load" the same site in different times, if you test it multiple times. What you might want to measure is how long it takes each browser to _render_ a complex page. Make sure everything is cached, hit "refresh" and time it. Or use the "back" and "forward" buttons. That way you take network delays out of the equation, and check how responsive the browser actually is.

    Reply

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